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The Rewrite Chronicles: Approve Me Please

Some people walk the world with a definite F*ck You attitude. Others may not be quite that direct about it, but they really just don’t care what others think. Blessed are these people.

Of course, it ought to be noted that people who say they don’t care what others think very often care when that gets turned around on them, and they get a bit testy when people choose not to listen to their considered opinion. But maybe we’re all that way to one degree or another. It’s up there with the–what I find rewarding is truly meaningful and what you find rewarding is delusion.

Anyway, I survived childhood through the approval of the adults. Plenty of teenagers rebelled, and I just thought–they are hurting themselves more than their parents. And that is not going to be me.

But sometimes this approval thing has got to go. I’m the grown up now and why should I care if someone, anyone, pats me on the head and says I’m doing the right thing? I don’t know why, but I do. Habits must die holding us tight by the throat.

We live in this world of voting people away we don’t like, of ranking what we approve, of reviewing what others ought to like or dislike. I got into a disagreement with a coworker once about a list of top ten favorite bands. Everyone at work was supposed to make their own list and pin them to the bulletin board. I refused to participate. You music people, I said, will just judge me based on my list. You like that? You think this is good? Like I need anyone to know what I think about The Beatles or Prince. But us book people are as bad. You read that?

How can I break my approval habit with all this around? How can I rewrite my novel wondering if I’ll still be liked when I’m done?

Of course, considering that most of my friends aren’t reading my novel, maybe the real question is–would I rather be disapproved of or ignored?

3 thoughts on “The Rewrite Chronicles: Approve Me Please

  1. It’s a tough situation. The more you put your writing out there for a stamp of approval, the more you’re in for an emotional roller coaster ride.
    With my first novel, I gave a rough, rickety draft to a handful of people in my life – all people to whom I was emotionally attached and who knew about my dirty little writing habit…

    They had been supportive when I had said I was writing a novel, they had shown interest in what I was up to, had listened while I stumbled my way through describing the plot.
    Now, in hindsight, I can say that (with the exception of one,) they weren’t the right readers at the right time.
    Having an interest in what I was up to, no matter how sincere it was, didn’t equip them with the kind of eyes I needed to help me take the next step with my work. Sure, I wanted approval outside of myself, but (again in hindsight,) the kind of approval I really wanted could only come from an editor at a publishing house. What I really wanted was for someone to say – “yes, this has potential, this is what I’m looking for, let’s get you published!”

    That said, I do feel it’s important to have at least one trusted reader during the writing process. In my opinion, that person needs to be an excellent reader, an ideal reader, someone who values the very act of sitting down with a story, someone who will be truthful and honest and tough. Unless a person fits that description, then they won’t do me or the story any good.

    A cast of others might be interested in what I’m doing and they might even be excited to peer into the process, but their judgement (supportive or reserved) won’t get me the approval I’m actually after. (Which is why it’s so easy to get caught in that roundabout of needing approval from an outside reader.) Unless the approval gets you where you want to go – the high you feel from it is fleeting at best. (And, for me… continually chasing after approval in the wrong places completely wrecked my natural instincts as a writer for a bit.)

    There’s a reason why most writers we know by name keep their WIPs close to the vest. When asked “how is the next book going?” they shut interviewers and readers down with a quick “fine, just fine.”
    I used to think it was because they had a confident flair for the dramatic, that they wanted to tease their audience into anticipation.
    But really, they are practising a kind of aikido for the writer’s soul.
    They know the danger of losing balance.

    You’re a writer with strong intuition and storytelling instincts. You’re also an excellent reader. Seek your own approval first. Focus your gut. Write.

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